Aug 05, 2022
Economist: Alex Jones, his company worth up to $270 million
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By JIM VERTUNO
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his company Free Speech Systems are worth up to $270 million, an economist testified Friday to a jury trying to determine if Jones should have to pay punitive damages to the family of a 6-year-old killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
The same jury ordered Jones to pay Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis $4.1 million in compensation for defamation. Jurors began considering additional punitive damages Friday as a separate issue. The parents want to punish Jones for a decade of pushing false hoax claims that they say led to a decade of trauma and abuse from the Infowars host’s followers.
Bernard Pettingill, who was hired by the plaintiffs to study Jones’ net worth, said records show that Jones withdrew $62 million for himself in 2021, when default judgments were issued in lawsuits against him.
“That number represents, in my opinion, a value of a net worth,” Pettingill said. “He’s got money put in a bank account somewhere.”
The money that flows into Jones’ companies eventually funnels its way to him, said Pettingill, who added that he has testified in approximately 1,500 cases during his career.
“He is a very successful man,” Pettingill said, calling Jones a “maverick” and “revolutionary” for finding ways to monetize his online messaging.
While the $4.1 million award Thursday was less than the $150 million the parents sought, it marked the first time Jones has been held financially liable for repeatedly claiming that the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history was a hoax perpetrated to try to bring about tighter gun restrictions.
Mark Bankston, an attorney for parents Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose 6-year-old son Jesse was among 20 children and six educators killed in the school attack in Newtown, Connecticut, insisted that the $4.1 million compensation award wasn’t a disappointment and warned that they would be trying to punish Jones in the next phase.
“We aren’t done yet,” Bankston said Thursday. “After tomorrow, he’s going to owe a whole lot more.”
Another of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Wesley Ball, asked jurors in closing Friday to award an additional $145.9 million, which would bring the total amount in damages to that $150 million target.
“You are asked to punish Alex Jones,” Ball said. “You are asked to deter Alex Jones from ever doing this awful thing again to another person or another family — to deter anyone who wants to step into his shoes.”
“Send the message to those who desire to do the same: Speech is free. Lies, you pay for,” he said.
But Jones’ lawyers said their client has already learned his lesson, and asked for lenience. The jury’s punishment should be less than $300,000, attorney Andino Reynal said.
“You’ve already sent a message. A message for the first time to a talk show host, to all talk show hosts, that their standard of care has to change,” Reynal said.
Jones still faces two other defamation lawsuits from Sandy Hook families in Texas and Connecticut that put his personal wealth and media empire in jeopardy.
Jones — who was in the courtroom briefly Friday but left before Pettingill’s testimony — told jurors earlier this week that any award over $2 million would “sink us.” And a week ago, his company Free Speech Systems, which is Infowars’ parent company, filed for federal bankruptcy protection.
Lawyers for the family suing Jones contend that Jones has tried to hide evidence of his true wealth and have sued him claiming he’s tried to hide money in various shell companies.
During his testimony, Jones was confronted with a memo from one of his business managers outlining a single day’s gross revenue of $800,000 from selling vitamin supplements and other products through his website, which would approach nearly $300 million in a year. Jones called it a record sales day.
Jones, who has portrayed the lawsuit as an attack on his First Amendment rights, conceded during the trial that the attack was “100% real” and that he was wrong to have lied about it. But Heslin and Lewis told jurors that an apology wouldn’t suffice and called on them to make Jones pay for the years of suffering he has put them and other Sandy Hook families through.
The parents told jurors about how they’ve endured a decade of trauma, inflicted first by the murder of their son and what followed: gun shots fired at a home, online and phone threats, and harassment on the street by strangers. They said the threats and harassment were all fueled by Jones and his conspiracy theory spread to his followers via his website Infowars.
A forensic psychiatrist testified that the parents suffer from “complex post-traumatic stress disorder” inflicted by ongoing trauma, similar to what might be experienced by a soldier at war or a child abuse victim.
Throughout the trial, Jones has been his typically bombastic self, talking about conspiracies on the witness stand, during impromptu press conferences and on his show. His erratic behavior is unusual by courtroom standards, and the judge has scolded him, telling him at one point: “This is not your show.”
The trial has drawn attention from outside Austin as well.
Bankston told the court Thursday that the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has requested records from Jones’ phone that Jones’ attorneys had mistakenly turned over to the plaintiffs. Bankston later said he planned to comply with the committee’s request.
Last month, the Jan. 6 committee showed graphic and violent text messages and played videos of right-wing figures, including Jones, and others vowing that Jan. 6 would be the day they would fight for Trump.
The committee first subpoenaed Jones in November, demanding a deposition and documents related to his efforts to spread misinformation about the 2020 election and a rally on the day of the attack.
Find AP’s full coverage of the Alex Jones trial at: https://apnews.com/hub/alex-jones
News Source: mercurynews.com
Tags: mr roadshow opinion columnists cartoons pac 12 hotline celebrities sandy hook families you are asked punitive damages and harassment jones has been the first time the plaintiffs tried to hide killed jones the committee the parents friday his website which the parents worth up
Netflix is not in deep trouble. Its becoming a media company
Netflix has had a terrible 2022. In April, it said it lost subscribers for the first time since 2011. Its stock has tumbled more than 60% so far this year.
Yet its recent struggles may not be the start of a downward spiral or the beginning of the end for the streaming giant. Rather, it’s a sign that Netflix is becoming a more traditional media company.
Netflix was originally valued as a Big Tech company, part of the Wall Street acronym, “FAANG,” which stood for Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google. Wall Street once valued the company at about $300 billion — a number on par with many Big Tech companies that Netflix’s business model ultimately couldn’t live up to.
“I think Netflix was extremely overvalued,” Julia Alexander, director of strategy at Parrot Analytics, told CNN Business. “Unlike those companies that have different tentacles, Netflix does not have a lot of tentacles.”
But Netflix was never really a tech company.
Yes, it relied on subscriber growth like many companies in the tech world, but its subscriber growth was built on having films and TV shows that people wanted to watch and pay for. That’s more a like a studio in Hollywood than a tech company in Silicon Valley.
Netflix looked a lot more like a tech company than, say, Disney, Comcast, Paramount or CNN parent company Warner Bros. Discovery. But as those traditional media companies start to look a lot more like Netflix, Netflix in turn is starting to take page out of its rivals’ playbooks: It’s going to start serving ads and it has been releasing some shows over the course of weeks and months rather than all at once.
Netflix has said that its cheaper ad tier and clampdown on password sharing may come next year. It’s partnering with Microsoft for its ad business.
“I think in many ways the moves Netflix are making suggest a transition from tech company to media company,” Andrew Hare, a senior vice president of research at Magid, told CNN Business. “With the introduction of ads, crackdown on password sharing, marquee shows like ‘Stranger Things’ experimenting with a staggered release, we are seeing Netflix looking more like a traditional media company every day.”
Hare added that Netflix’s former business strategy, which was “once sacrosanct is now being thrown out the window.”
“Netflix once forced Hollywood deeply out of its comfort zone. They brought streaming to the American living room,” he said. “Now it appears some more conventional practices could be what Netflix needs.”
At Netflix right now, “a lot of these strategic moves are being made as they mature and move into the next phase as a company,” noted Hare. That includes focusing on cash flow and revenue rather than just growth.
“In other words, old school business,” he said.
— CNN Business’ Moss Cohen contributed to this report.
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